NewsFeed n°59

Published by Elias Ricken on

The NewsFeed is a press review with a summary of a selection of articles and events that occurred in the past weeks. Keep track!
In today’s brief, you will find a focus on the Munich Security Conference and the positions shared there, the meeting of NATO Defence Ministers, the purchase of Himaars by the Netherlands, cooperation between Italy and France, and more!
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Focus: Munich Security Conference 2023

2023’s Munich Security Conference was held on the 17th and 19th of February and was the first MSC that was held during wartime in Ukraine. (MSC 2022 was held from 18th to 20th Feb. 2022). Therefore, the focus on the war in Ukraine comes to no surprise. This also meant that a Russian delegation was not invited. In general, multiple topics were approached differently than in previous MSCs.

Nuclear deterrence for example became a whole new importance, as French president Macron repeated his invitation from 2020 to join France to talk with him about this subject. Since nuclear deterrence is normally only addressed in the framework of NATO, this comes to some surprise. It can on one hand be counted as another symptom of Macron’s general plan of European strategic autonomy, but in regard to the development of the current international security situation, the US could also be interested in having a security and defence-wise reliable Europe, that can handle topics like nuclear deterrence on its own.

Another great point was China’s announcement to propose a peace plan for the War in Ukraine. The plan has not yet been concretely presented, but it can be expected not to put much pressure on Russia, for example in the field of territorial agreements, the legal punishment of international law breakings and demilitarized zones, but rather have their security interests legitimised and while having Ukraine on the receiving end of many demands. Next to the Western standpoint to support Ukraine until the end of the war, in order to get the country in a suitable situation for diplomatic agreements and negotiation, China’s peace proposal could serve as “proof” of the peacebuilding intentions of the two allies Russia and China. The Western societies could then be depicted as war-longing countries that would not accept peace proposals to end the war in Ukraine, even though the plans to establish this peace are far from acceptable for all parties. 

A demand from Ukraine has also caused some turmoil. While NATO countries rush to organize and assure ammunition supply for the country, Ukrainian vice-president Kubrakow mentioned in his speech that, since Russia uses cluster munition, Ukraine might do so as well. Knowing that this ammunition type is banned by international law, the demanded delivery that was suggested with this phrase was immediately rejected by the other participants of the conference. However, a reason behind the mention was also in the reason why cluster ammunition was banned in the first place: Since these ammunitions have a high dud-rate, the ammunitions often transform the landscape into minefield, with unexploded ammunitions simply laying on the ground in high numbers. However, the fact that Ukraine soil is littered with landmines already could undermine their concrete impact.

To conclude on another new political tendency that could be seen on the MSC: The conscience that the global south will play a significant role in the future and should therefore be more counted with and related to in the international security situation. This tendency could first be noted in French president Macron’s speech, but also German chancellor Scholz, US-vice president Harris and NATO general secretary Stoltenberg. It looks like this point has finally reached the awareness of Western leaders that also could be important to end the war in Ukraine.

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Airbus Defence & Space blames Berlin of blocking the export of A400M Atlas transport aircraft

The A400M transport aircraft is a multinational program coordinated by Airbus Defence & Space (ex. Cassidian) for 7 initial clients: France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Luxembourg, Belgium and Turkey.

However, it faced some delays compared to the initial planning, and delivered the first aircrafts 3 years late. To help Airbus Defence & Space to face it, €3.5b were unblocked, to be partially reimbursed with profits from exportations.

Exportations which never came in the scale expected: from 400 aircrafts expected, only 180 have been ordered to this date.

Aside from the Munich Security Conference which occurred from 17th to 19th February, Michael Shoellhorn, ADS CEO, pointed out that it was not by lack of customers, but due to difficulties obtaining exportation licences from Germany. Indeed, all war equipment can only be exported with the consent and control of the countries involved in the conception and production, and Germany has the reputation to be cautious in that regard. As a result, ‘important exportations are not approved”, Mr. Schoellhorn said.

As a second complaint, Mr. Schoellhorn also regretted that his company does not benefit as much as expected of the special fund launched by the German government in the aftermath of the invasion of Ukraine, the “Sondervermögen” worth €100b. Orders of Eurofighters dedicated to electronic warfare are however expected and could fit into this perimeter.

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The Netherlands are interested in buying HIMARS from the US

The US State Department has given its approval for the sale of High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) to the Netherlands, for $670 million. The HIMARS is a highly mobile rocket system that is used for precision strikes against a variety of targets. It can be transported on a range of vehicles, including trucks and amphibious vehicles, and is capable of firing a variety of munitions.

The sale is part of the US government’s ongoing efforts to support its allies and enhance their defense capabilities. The Netherlands is a key NATO ally and the sale of HIMARS will further strengthen their military capabilities. The value of the sale has not been disclosed.

The HIMARS system has been in service with the US military since 2005 and has been used in a number of conflicts, including in Iraq and Afghanistan. The system has been praised for its accuracy and versatility and is considered to be a valuable asset in modern warfare, it is highly mobile and capable of firing a range of munitions with great precision.

Military cooperation and external operations

NATO Defence Ministers meeting addressed Ukraine and ammunitions shortage

On Feb. 15th, Defence Ministers from NATO countries gathered in Brussels with a double agenda: Strengthen the Alliance’s defence and deterrence, and Step-up in the support to Ukraine.

Prior to the meeting, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stressed that this was a “race of logistics” as a Russian offensive is foreseen by many and key capabilities should be delivered to Ukraine before.

Indeed, the way to boost industrial capacities to replenish munitions stockpiles was addressed, especially on 155mm caliber, as Ukraine consumes 5000 a day, twice the already increased production capacity of the United States. Capability targets for munition stockpiles and tighter cooperation with industry were identified as key enablers.

New guidelines were agreed to enhance NATO defence planning, adapting to a more dangerous world, with Russia’s aggressive behaviour and challenges posed by China, as underlined by Jens Stoltenberg. This aims to reinforce the Alliance’s deterrence.

Following the sabotage of the Nord Stream pipeline, the ministers also requested NATO to reinforce the protection of critical undersea infrastructure. To that end, the creation of a Critical Undersea Infrastructure Coordination Cell was announced and will be installed in NATO Headquarters, to bring together all stakeholders.

The next steps of an investment increase pledge by NATO allies were also on the agenda, to be finalised for the next NATO summit in July in Vilnius.

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While the Franco-German relations are at low point, France intensifies partnership with Italy

The Franco-German relations are at a low point. After the Germany unilateral European Sky Shield initiative, taken without France in order to build a European air defence system, disagreements in the FCAS/SCAF and MGCS weapon programs and called off minister meetings, there is no question about it. France reacted already in November 2021 and signed the Quirinale treaty with Italy. Some might compare it to the Elysée treaty from 1963, that institutionalized the friendship between Germany and France. Security- and defence-wise France and Italy do seem to work very well together. This can be observed in the decision of September 2022 to maintain the multi mission FREMM frigates of the Marina Militare and the Marine Nationale from the same franco-italian stockpile of reserve parts as well as the conjoint buying and production of 700 SAMs of the ASTER type and their respective SAMP/T NG or Mamba NG carriers. France and Italy now finalized the delivery of this SAM system to Ukraine. Next to Kyiv’s problem of maintaining the great variety of anti-air systems present in Ukraine, this cooperation proves that France and Italy’s partnership is capable of developing, producing and delivering military equipment in an efficient way. While the partnership with Germany that houses Europe’s most prestigious military development projects faces difficulties to move significantly forward and to hold budget and time limits, Italy and France seem to be much more efficient in their work together.

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International relations

Austria refuses to train Ukrainian soldiers on Leopard 2 tanks to protect their neutrality

Klaudia Tanner, Austrian defence Minister, has declared that Austria will not train Ukrainian soldiers on Leopard 2 tanks that will be delivered by many countries, including Germany and Poland.

Austria possesses 48 Leopard 2 tanks, on which have already been trained Hungarian and Czech soldiers. However, help to Ukraine was defined by Minister Tanner as a “sovereign decision of each state to support Ukraine within the framework of its laws”. Indeed, Austrian constitutional neutrality is very strict and prevents providing weapons or military support to a warring country. Today, Austria is only providing humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

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The REIAM summit of 2023

On 15 and 16 February, the government of the Netherlands hosted the first global Summit on Responsible Artificial Intelligence in the Military Domain, REAIM 2023. The summit provided a platform for all stakeholders to discuss the key opportunities, challenges and risks associated with military applications of AI. Participants included foreign ministers and other government delegates, as well as representatives from knowledge institutions, think tanks, industry and civil society organizations. The event was co-hosted by the Republic of Korea and took place at the World Forum in The Hague, the international city of peace and justice.

The REAIM Summit  welcomed 2.000 attendees from 100 countries with 80 government representatives contributing to the responsible use and deployment of military AI. The Summit organized 4 high level sessions, around 35 breakout sessions, 20 AI demonstrations, an Academic Forum, Innovation hubs and a Student hub. Watch the wrap-up of the conference: More than 60 countries have signed a military AI pact at a summit in Switzerland. The pact aims to establish common principles and norms for the development and use of lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS). However, some experts and advocates have expressed skepticism about the effectiveness of the agreement, citing concerns about the lack of transparency and accountability in the development and deployment of military AI. While the signing of the pact is seen as a step forward in regulating the development and use of military AI, there is a need for continued dialogue and collaboration among countries, industry, and civil society to ensure responsible and ethical use of these technologies.

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